Communicated to the President Fernando de la Rúa, the memorandum concerns the right to truth and the jurisdiction of military tribunals to deal with cases of enforced disappearances committed by the military regime.
ICJ and Amnesty International call on the Argentine authorities to fullfil their international obligations to guarantee the right to truth and to bring the cases of enforced disappearances committed during the military regime before civilian tribunals.
The jurisdiction of the civilian tribunals in such cases is an established principle of international law. The memorandum states, inter alia,
- International law entitles the families of disappeared persons to know the totality of circumstances surrounding the fate of their relatives and imposes an obligation of investigation on states (i.e. the right to truth).
- On 15 November 1999, the Republic of Argentina submitted to consensual settlement under the auspices of Inter American Commission on Human Rights in the case of Lapaco (Argentina), No 12.059. It established that the right to truth is not subject to statutes of limitations; Argentina agreed to take necessary measure to protect the right to truth and to ensure that civilian courts are charged with the investigation of these cases
- Argentina is a State Party to the Inter American Convention on Forced Disappearances of persons; Article IX of the Convention provides that the investigation and prosecution of cases of enforced disappearances fall within the scope of civilian justice. This is also stated in United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (Article 16.2).
- Emerging international human rights standards, notably the draft Principles for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights through Action to Combat Impunity and the draft basic Principles and Guidelines on the Right to Remedy and for Victims of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law, affirm the jurisdiction of civilian courts in these matters.
- Similarly, the jurisprudence of the UN Human Rights Committee and findings of the Special Rapporteur on Torture, the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances and the Special Rapporteur for the Independence of Judges and Lawyers uphold this principle.